GreenBuilt Tour in April
Come and tour innovative examples of
sustainable architecture at the fourth annual GreenBuilt Tour. The tour is on Saturday and Sunday, April 26 and 27, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Tickets are $5 and may be purchased at local First State Bank branches, both
LaMontanita Coop locations, or on our Web site: www.greenalliancenm.org. This year the tour will showcase twenty-two projects along with GreenCentral, Albuquerque's first trade show to focus on ecologically sound principals and energy efficiency in building and living. Tour the sites, talk with building professionals, and learn about great building techniques practiced right in your own backyard!
“Green up” your home
—Jana Lee Aspin
There is a vast amount of information available about how to “green up” homes that were built long before more effective and sustainable systems were conceived.
Not many of us who live around these parts are from Kentucky, but our grass is! And it takes a lot of water to sustain nonnative blue grass, as opposed to low-water native plants and grasses that can be used for landscaping instead.
As for Xeriscaping, there can be compromises. Use deciduous trees for shading and cooling in the summer and evergreens for wind-blocking in the winter. Be judicious with plants that require more water. Don’t throw out the grass altogether; instead, limit it to a more compact area. And use drip systems combined with water harvesting by collecting rain and snow runoff from roofs. There are some nice commercially-produced run-off collectors that are both attractive and functional and are fitted with filters and hoses for watering.
Siting new homes (how the structures are placed on their land) for energy efficiency and views is an important concern. Changing the siting of existing homes is not a likely option, but additions or remodels can maximize heating and cooling efficiency, provide view corridors,and offer privacy. Exterior overhangs can reduce overheating from the summer sun and provide indoor-outdoor living spaces.
When it becomes time to replace windows and doors, find energy-efficient products that help to reduce heating and cooling bills. Quality UV-rated skylights that don’t produce energy loss can be placed throughout houses for daytime lighting and are especially effective in closets that would otherwise be dark even on the brightest days.
Inefficient lighting adds to rising energy costs, but it is easy to find low-energy fluorescent bulbs and fixtures that use lower-wattage incandescent bulbs but take advantage of reflection to boost light.
Consider an upgrade to refrigerated air, which does a good job of addressing indoor air quality issues with pollen and other pollutants. Refrigerated air is much more efficient than it used to be, and it doesn’t use precious water like an evaporative cooler. He makes a point that refrigerated air is also more secure because it doesn’t require the home owner to leave a door or window open when operating.
New homes are often fitted with hot-water circulators, providing hot water nearly instantly at the tap. There are some in-line devices that owners of older homes can install to help reduce the amount of water that has to flow before getting hot tap water.
Other commonsense ideas: close off vents in rooms that are not often used; make sure dryers are properly vented so hot air is not being dumped into the house on hot days; reduce cooking time and clothes-drying time during the warm parts of days; cook outdoors during the summer; and use ceiling fans to help reduce air conditioner loads.
When it comes time to replace items in households, consider the following:
- Environmentally friendly products produce a healthier indoor atmosphere, such as high naturally organic-content fibers in carpeting and fabrics
- Wood products from companies who harvest in certified sustainable forests
- Paints and finishes with “low VOC” (volatile organic compounds) content
- Items that have high percentages of recycled content
- Products that have durable surface life, like natural stone
- Items produced locally or regionally so they don’t have to be shipped from far away, creating greater pollution
- Natural sun-dried clay tiles or stain concrete floors
- Reclaimed materials, like architectural timbers, rather than new wood
- Renewable products like bamboo flooring that are not in scarce supply (example: alder, instead of oak or cherry)
- Alternatives like concrete countertops, that don’t have a lot of “embodied energy,” versus the shipping of materials like granite from Brazil
For more information about energy savings and how to become stewards of the land on which we live, try these Websites: The City of Albuquerque’s site at www.cabq.gov has a section on environment; the National Association of Home Builders Research Center at www.nahbrc.org is a wealth of information; PNM has monthly energy tips and an area addressing environment at www.pnm.com; and the Sustainable Buildings Industry Council has a lot to offer at www.SBICouncil.org.
The information in this article was provided by Ron Jones, the Green Builder® of Sierra Custom Builders in Placitas. To see his latest green built construction in Placitas, visit www.aspinGroup.net. For further green building information, you may contact Jana Lee Aspin at 239-2152.
Cohousing, community within reach
Photo to come: Residents celebrate their cohousing community
Imagine coming home from work, parking your car, and walking through gardens on common pathways as you casually talk to your neighbors and friends before deciding whether to join them for dinner or to eat in the privacy of your own home. Imagine you are washing your dishes, watching your children playing with all the neighbor kids through your breezy, open window. They are safe, they know all the neighbors, and are completely at home. Imagine aging in a community of caring individuals with whom you’ve developed strong bonds over the years. People who value community are working to create it in this relatively new prototype of American housing known as cohousing.
Since the early 1990s, cohousing has been gaining ground as an attractive and viable grassroots alternative to mainstream American development. Today there are more than 150 communities sprinkled around the country. Cohousing combines private living quarters with common dining and activity spaces. Residents share in tasks such as childcare, gardening, and cooking. Participation in the design and development process, defining the nature of the homes and common facilities, is essential to cohousing. Residents collaborate with architects and developers to envision a physical environment that encourages social contact and protects privacy.
Generally, between ten and forty individually owned private homes are organized around a shared common house and open yard. The common house contains kitchen and dining facilities and often includes spaces for libraries, children’s play, yoga, woodworking, music, and guests. It acts as a center for the community and the front door to the surrounding neighborhood, often drawing neighbors to social events. The outdoor spaces are carefully designed to facilitate community building while providing semiprivate spaces and strong relationships to the interiors of the homes.
Less land per home is consumed by cohousing than in traditional developments, and there are more opportunities to cluster homes. As a result, cohousing is conducive to the integration of greywater systems, greenhouses, and central-power or heat-generation systems. Homes that share walls to save energy can also share mechanical and solar systems, and the massing of multifamily homes can protect solar availability to each living space. Sharing resources increases everyone’s ability to have things they couldn’t as single families.
It takes volumes to describe all the ins and outs of a successful cohousing neighborhood, but what truly makes it work is simply that people want it to work. They are drawn together by a desire to share the cultural experience of daily life while maintaining their privacy and independent lives. In addition, they satisfy pragmatic human needs such as assistance with aging and child supervision.
Cohousing has spread quickly since its introduction from Denmark in the late 1980s by Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett. It has rural, suburban, urban, and retrofit manifestations. An industry of developers, facilitators, architects, and writers has sprung up around the movement. Wonderland Hill Development Company in Boulder is the largest. As collective experience grows, so does the potential to revolutionize how cities grow while satisfying the free market.
In New Mexico, cohousing has a strong cultural reference point. It echoes the pre-Hispanic vernacular patterns still found in areas less touched by modern development. Placitas, Bernalillo, and Algodones all have cultural and historic roots in “developments” of this sort. Families live together on single pieces of land with early generations leading to new ones. Families group together with others to share water, primarily, but also food storage and other resources.
In Sandoval County, cohousing presents an alternative that could satisfy some of our current needs. The area is rapidly gentrifying. New families are faced with higher entry-level housing costs each year. There are few options for people who are aging. These essential people are often moved to Albuquerque condos, where they await visits from grandchildren.
A housing type that is intergenerational and interracial and offers a wide array of home sizes and costs is more viable. Home ownership results in renewed pride and commitment to the community. Community strength arises out of diversity in terms of age, ethnicity, and tax bracket. Rather than seeking a homogenous state, sustainable communities mesh people of different sorts to create a stable mix. Casual daily interactions assist in enhancing understanding and breaking down social barriers formed through lack of contact.
By offering these desirable characteristics, cohousing has emerged as an alternative that is not only practical and healthy but pleasurable to live in. These characteristics increase property values and also result in a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle.
For more information about cohousing, check out the following resources or attend the 2003 National Cohousing Conference this June in Boulder, Colorado: CoHousing: A Contemporary Approach to Housing Ourselves, McCamant and Durrett; The Cohousing Handbook, Chris Hanson; www.cohousing.org;
www.whdc.com; www.cohousingco.com; www.cohousingresources.com
Bryan Bowen is a former Placitan and licensed architect. For questions, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
RRwater-ordinance violators face fines, not incarceration
Can you imagine going to jail for watering your sidewalk? Now you don't have to anymore. Violators of the proposed new water ordinance in Rio Rancho have just a few more months to wait before all they will face are fines and petty-misdemeanor charges.
That's because before the proposed water ordinance goes before the Rio Rancho City Council and into effect, the Rio Rancho Utilities Commission is revising their proposal concerning an essential part of the ordinance enforcement.
Lorri Skeie-Campbell, Rio Rancho's water-conservation officer, said that the proposed ordinance was pulled from the agenda of the council's March 12 meeting because there was no enforcement mechanism in place to support the new ordinance.
"Originally, the utilities commission didn't want the criminal aspect attached to the ordinance," Skeie-Campbell said. Without the misdemeanor provision in the water ordinance, a violation was considered a civil matter. This posed a conflict with the department of public safety, because they deal with criminal matters and the Rio Rancho Utilities Department no longer had their code-enforcement officers.
At the time the utilities commission approved the new water ordinance, city code-enforcement officers worked under city planning. Now, enforcement officers fall under the department of public safety, which changes the dynamics of the ordinance.
Skeie-Campbell said it was decided at a recent internal working-group meeting that in order to enforce water violations they needed to include a "petty-misdemeanor provision," which is considered a "nontraffic" citation, and excludes incarceration. It's a kinder, gentler ordinance, because all other city-ordinance violators are charged with a misdemeanor.
The nature and number of water violations people receive will determine the amount of their fines. The corresponding fee will show up on their water bills. The three main elements to the proposed water ordinance include, first, new water restrictions for Rio Rancho. The water-waste and fugitive-water component has been around for a while, and basically means that Rio Ranchoans shouldn't water their driveways or let water spray onto rights-of-way.
The second component involves new water restrictions and is seasonal. From April 1 through September 30, the ordinance prohibits watering between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. except for large turf areas. Large turf areas, such as parks and cemeteries, may only water between sundown and 8:00 a.m.
The third main element of the proposed water ordinance is called “water by request,” affecting restaurants and hotels. It is also new and will be enforced year-round. Hotels will be required to post signs (which will be provided by the city) in all of their guests' rooms asking if they want their linens and towels changed during their stay.
Restaurants in Rio Rancho will join ranks with Albuquerque and Santa Fe; under the proposed ordinance they will be required to ask diners if they would like water rather than automatically serving it.
While the proposed ordinance could take months to become law, it is just one aspect of water that the Rio Rancho Utilities Department deals with. They are currently seeking public input and participation in developing a comprehensive water-resources-management plan to address current and future water use and needs. A public water forum will be held Saturday, April 12, 2003 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at Rio Rancho City Council Chambers.
Gray-water bill approved at last
Governor Richardson signed House Bill 114, “Providing for Residential Landscape Use of Gray Water,” into law on March 12. This law became effective immediately on signing. What is important and new is that this bill allows for the above ground distribution of gray water from homes to landscaping on the same property.
As defined by the act, "gray water" means untreated household wastewater that has not come in contact with toilet waste and includes wastewater from bathtubs, showers, washbasins, clothes-washing machines, and laundry tubs, but does not include wastewater from kitchen sinks or dishwashers or laundry water from the washing of material soiled with human excreta, such as diapers.
One-hundred percent capture of gray water can require significant replumbing in existing homes. However, it isn’t hard to do in new homes or homes where plumbing isn’t under a slab. See below for some ideas on how to retrofit existing homes.
What does HB 114 require?
- Every gray-water distribution system must have an overflow into the sewer or septic system.
- Gray-water storage tanks must be covered.
- Systems must not be located in floodways.
- Gray water must be stored at least five feet above the water table.
- Pressurized pipes must be clearly identified as nonpotable water.
- Gray water must not run off of a home owner’s property.
- Contact with people or domestic pets must be minimized.
- Ponding of gray water is prohibited.
- Spraying of gray water is prohibited.
- Gray water must not be discharged within a hundred feet of domestic wells, streams, or lakes, or twenty-five feet from an arroyo.
- Use of gray water must comply with local ordinances.
- No more than 250 gallons of gray water can be discharged on a given day.
You can take advantage of this new ordinance by using your household gray water to irrigate landscaping around your house. Probably the easiest and least costly way to use gray water is by connecting your washing-machine discharge hose to a garden hose, run it out a window, and water the landscaping as you wash your clothes.
Be careful not to have the end of the hose elevated much above the top of your washer or it will not drain your washing machine. Make sure you aren’t washing diapers and that the laundry detergent you are using is biodegradable. Using bleach should be avoided also. You may want to filter your grey water by attaching a nylon stocking to the end of your hose to catch any debris that comes from your washer.
Another simple option is to save your bathwater and pump it out using a small utility pump (less than $100 at any hardware store) connected to a garden hose. This same pump can be used to distribute water captured as runoff from your roof into barrels or a tank. Collecting your rain runoff may be the simplest and least costly means of getting additional water for your landscaping. Make sure you cover any collection tanks or barrels so you are not breeding mosquitoes. In standing water mosquitoes are able to grow from eggs to adults in just seven days.
Beyond these methods, most people will have to make changes to the plumbing in their house to be able to use their gray water. If you have access to the plumbing under your floor, this can be done by rerouting the bathroom sinks, showers, and tubs and the washing machine to a covered storage tank that has an overflow into your sewer system. From here you can pump the water out to your landscaping with a small pump or have it gravity-feed out to your landscaping. If you run your gray water into a drip system, be sure to filter it first or it will clog your emitters. If you collect your gray water in a tank, be sure to empty it regularly, as it will become foul smelling and contaminated if left stored for a few days.
For more information and books on reusing water check out www.sahra.arizona.edu/programs/water_cons/tips/re-use/index.htm and www.oasisdesign.net.
If you are building a new home, be sure to include a gray-water system. These systems can provide you with water for a beautiful landscape that will not use any water other than your gray water.
Be sure to check with your local building officials to see if they have any additional rules you must follow. For additional information you can also contact the New Mexico Environment Department’s Ground Water Quality Bureau or your local NMED field office.
The full version of House Bill 114 may be downloaded from legis.state.-nm.us/Sessions/03%- 20Regular/FinalVersions/house/HB0114.pdf.